Brussels, 05 May 2009 - The European Commission has adopted a communication on the role of Fair Trade and non-governmental trade-related sustainability assurance schemes. The communication recognises the significant development of the Fair Trade movement and the significance of a European market now worth EUR 1.5 billion per year. The communication also lays out policy areas where Fair Trade and other schemes can contribute to European sustainable development objectives. It also sets out main principles and definitions and the fundamentals for public procurement of sustainable goods and services.
EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said: "It is important that consumers, companies and government authorities can make well-informed choices when it comes to Fair Trade products. The Commission will stay engaged and further support Fair Trade and other trade-related schemes, given their great potential to contribute to sustainable development."
Louis Michel, Commissioner for Development and humanitarian aid, said: "I welcome the development of goods certified "Fair Trade" in Europe, whose turnover has increased 70-fold in the past decade. Especially important are the schemes that guarantee a minimum price to farmers in developing countries. This development will be even more successful when the promoters of such systems better inform consumers on the real impact of their actions on trade and developing countries."
The communication issued today has been prepared in close cooperation with the EP and with stakeholders. It recognises that Fair Trade and other private sustainability assurance schemes are essentially voluntary, dynamic mechanisms that develop along with societal and consumer awareness and demands. Such schemes should apply standards and criteria in a transparent manner to allow for well-informed choices. The communication considers that regulating criteria and standards could limit the dynamic element of private initiatives in this field and stand in the way of the further development of Fair Trade and other private schemes.
The Fair Trade market has developed rapidly in recent years. EU consumers now purchase Fair Trade certified products worth approximately EUR 1.5 billion each year, 70 times more than in 1999 when the Commission adopted its last communication on the topic. Multinational companies are responding by linking into the Fair Trade market, or applying their own sustainable schemes, despite the economic crisis. Public procurement also constitutes a key strategic market for Fair Trade products.
In June 2006 the European Council adopted its renewed sustainable development strategy and encouraged EU Member States to promote sustainable products, including Fair Trade products. The European Parliament presented a report in 2006 on Fair Trade and Development. The report pointed out the need for raising awareness among consumers, and the risk of abuse by companies that enter the Fair Trade market without complying with certification criteria. An exploratory opinion in 2005 of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) looked at "consumer assurance schemes". Key findings were to identify the need for authoritative quality assessment of consumer assurance schemes and to fix central definitions. This 2009 Communication responds to the European Parliament report of 2006 and the 2005 exploratory opinion of the EECS.
For more information see the Commission communication: "Contributing to Sustainable Development: The role of Fair Trade and non-governmental trade-related sustainability assurance schemes."
European Commission adopts communication on Fair Trade